CHICAGO (CBS) — Three schools in Hammond will close for good this summer and more than 100 staff positions will be cut, due to a budget deficit of more than $10 million.
Tuesday night, the School City of Hammond board approved by a 4-1 vote the superintendent’s recommendation to close Columbia and Lafayette elementary schools and Miller School, which operates special education and Head Start preschool programs.
Students at Columbia and Lafayette will be moved to Irving and Maywood elementary schools next school year.
The board also voted to eliminate 130 to 150 staff positions. Teacher cuts will be made based on a teacher effectiveness rating.
The district was facing a $10.2 million deficit, and the board blamed state lawmakers for a lack of funding.
“If there was any other way to get any other funds and any other rock to unturn, we would do it. This is not an easy decision. This has been in discussion for months and months and months,” School Board President Deborah White said.
The board promised the move would not affect recommended student-to-teacher ratios in the classrooms.
“We do have established ratios. None of this involves going past any of the board recommended student-teacher ratios. It also doesn’t mean going underneath them. So we’re not going to have a class with ten students in it,” Supt. Scott Miller said.
Board secretary Carlotta Blake-King, who voted against the school closures and staff cuts, argued the financial issues were not a sudden problem. Blake-King said it took years of ignoring the numbers, and spending more than was available.
“What saddens me the most, and what always happens in a situation like this, is it always falls on the back of the brown and black children,” she said. “I heard someone tell me social justice should not be determined by their zip code, and today it is.”
While the schools won’t close until the summer, staff cuts will begin as soon as possible.